Menopause: food advances or postpones its occurrence

A study shows which dietary factors are associated with an earlier or later natural onset of menopause.

The age at which menopause naturally occurs has an influence on the subsequent future of women, particularly in terms of health. Thus, early menopause has been associated with lower bone mineral density, osteoporosis, depression and increased cardiovascular risk.

The natural cessation of ovarian function is dependent on many factors, genetic, environmental, but also behavioral, which are not all elucidated. For the first time, a prospective study accurately reports how dietary intake affects the age of natural menopause.

Fish, legumes, pasta and rice influence menopause

The study, conducted in the United Kingdom, involves 914 women who take part in the UK Women’s Cohort Study and who naturally went through menopause after the age of 40 and before the age of 65. After controlling for confounding factors, the results show that:

  • The average age of natural menopause is 51 years old.
  • Menopause occurs 1.5 years earlier for each daily serving of refined pasta or rice.
  • Menopause occurs 3.3 years later for each daily serving of oily fish and 0.9 years later for each daily serving of fresh legumes (such as peas and beans).
  • High intakes of vitamin B6 and zinc are also associated with later menopause (+0.6 years and +0.3 years respectively).

Vegetarians and non-vegetarians too

Examination of the food groups also reveals that meat consumption is associated with the onset of menopause, which occurs 1 year later than in the case of a vegetarian diet. Among non-vegetarians, daily consumption of salty snacks is associated with onset of menopause 2 years earlier.

The authors explain that the antioxidants in fresh legumes and the omega-3s in oily fish could explain the delay in the age of menopause, while refined carbohydrates, due to the increased risk of insulin resistance, could interfere with the activity of sex hormones. However, this innovative study does not make it possible to establish cause and effect links.

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Dunneram Y et al. Dietary intake and age at natural menopause: results from the UK Women’s Cohort Study. J Epidemiol Community Health. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jech-2017-209887


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